Photos and words by Lauren LaRocca
Camping at Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island is undoubtedly an experience you’ll remember forever, with its 47,000 acres of dramatic cliffs along the Atlantic Ocean, pine-covered hills, rocky beaches and wildlife.
But camping there can also be quite tricky.
For one, no walk-in sites are available; you have to make reservations in advance. And while you can book up to two months ahead of time, sites get claimed extremely quickly — as in, you need to be online the day campsites become available, all while crossing your fingers that you’ll be able to reserve a site before someone else does.
Adding to this conundrum is the fact that while most national parks allow backcountry camping, Acadia does not. This means you can’t wander along a trail and decide to pitch your tent somewhere. Because the park is home to such fragile and rare ecosystems, camping is reserved for designated campsites only, so as not to disturb any of the protected wilderness.
And, lastly, there are only four designated campsites in all of Acadia.
All of this adds up to a dire need to plan in advance if you want to camp in Acadia.
That said, plenty of private campgrounds, Airbnbs and hotels are in nearby Bar Harbor, and you can drive into the park for daytime use.
But if you’re determined to camp inside this wondrous park, here are your options:
The woodsy Blackwoods Campground has multiple hiking trails that will take you to the ocean, as well as the scenic — if tough — Cadillac South Ridge Trail nearby, which provides some of the best views on the island.
Seawall Campground, as the name implies, sits on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and offers lots of leisurely walks, as well as a picnic area on the water.
Schoodic Woods Campground is not on Mount Desert Island, but the mainland. It’s an idyllic setting, with miles of hiking trails and bike paths. Like many spots in the park, there are some gorgeous views — but the best thing about this campground is some wonderful views can be enjoyed from your campsite.
Duck Harbor Campground is for the hardcore campers among us. Located on the rugged Isle au Haut, off the coast of Stonington, it’s accessible only by mail boat from the mainland. While it may sound like a bit of a hassle, on the plus side, you get some extraordinary nature here —with no cars or trucks in sight.
Psst: There are a few private campgrounds that, while not technically inside Acadia, are often just a few miles from the park. They include:
Smuggler’s Den Campground, popular with families because it sits amid the wilderness but offers modern amenities for campers, whether you’re staying in a tent, RV or cabin. Wifi, a camp store, a playground and basketball court, a swimming pool and laundry are all onsite.
Another private campground, Bass Harbor Campground, offers tent and RV camping, as well as cabin and yurt rentals, and as a swimming pool, arts and crafts room, playground and scheduled activities.